Hi everyone! I’m Lanée Slaughter from @mama.and.og. I’m mama to OG, an exuberant, curious two-year-old and I am a stay home mom who was actually used to staying out of the home. We used to spend our days at play spaces, classes, and museums. Which is actually why I started Mama & OG – to showcase all of our adventures around Chicago, but when covid-19 hit, we were spending all day in the playroom, so I pivoted and started to really incorporate activities into our day which then led to me really assessing how I organized and utilized the playroom.
My philosophy on play incorporates some elements of Montessori like her toy rotation, but really, it’s more based on my observations of OG and what she’s into so it’s very child led. I do read a lot of articles based on age appropriate activities and also use the playfully app to help evaluate what skills are upcoming. For me, the most important thing is that OG is having fun while continuing to develop and work on skills especially when she’s in a sensitive period. I also try to learn from every activity – what appealed to her, what didn’t, what could I change so really lots of observation. Which leads me to playroom organization!
At first, organizing a playroom or play area may seem like a monumental feat, but once it’s all set you will be so happy you did it! In our home, OG’s play area is in our family room, so I wanted to give her distinct stations/areas throughout the space to make it feel cohesive and welcoming, while still giving my husband and me an “adult area” to relax. The back half of the room has her shelfie and book display on one wall and then her table and kitchen on the other wall. She has a reading nook in the “adult area” where she can sit in her own comfy chair and select books from a basket on the floor.
In terms of toys, less is more! More engaging for your child, more money in your wallet, and more time actually spent playing with your child instead of constantly worrying about the mess you’re going to have to clean. Children actually focus better and are able to play more independently if there are less options as they do not get distracted and can enjoy more creative, quality play.
To keep her area tidy, I really limit the number of items that are out for her to play with and keep her shelfie very minimal. In addition to rotating the toys on her shelfie frequently, I will periodically do a full room sweep and remove any other books, puzzles, stuffed animals, toys with which she’s lost interest. We have a closet where I store all items that are not currently in use – she knows where it is, so she can ask to take out items as she likes but I regulate how many come out at a time. The baskets are organized by type of item or toy for example she has once basket for animals and another dramatic play.
If you are not interested in maintaining a shelfie or do not have extra closet space for unused items, I would highly recommend investing in several baskets to store toys, so that your child can still access items in an organized manner. I’m not a huge fan of very large toy bins as they become cluttered which makes it challenging for the child to select a toy since the choices can be very overwhelming for them.
Q&A with Hopscotch City
1. I love the idea of pairing down the amount of toys that are out, but I am overwhelmed! Any tips on how to get started?
I would have some storage system in place before you get started – like plastic see through containers for toys not in the rotation and then bins/baskets where you can put the toys in use
• observe your child playing for awhile and take inventory of which toys they actually use for play
• once you’ve observed, sort the toys that they actually use into categories: games/puzzles, dolls, blocks, imaginary/dramatic play – then organize these items into a shelf or baskets/bins accordingly
• I like to use bins/baskets for toys that have multiple pieces – for instance, figurines, stuffed animals, or imaginary/dramatic play items like hats, costumes. Everything else, I keep on the shelf in full-view which forces me to stay organized and helps OG actually see her toys
• finally, keep the number of total accessible items low
• if your child is older, you can allow them to select a few toys that they would like to remain out and let them know they can rotate them 1 for 1 from their other toys in storage
2. Do you have different categories or themes for the toys and books you like to put out every week? Can you tell me about that process?
I do not have different themes, but I do ensure that there is representation amongst the toys of the play areas with which she is currently interested. I have the IKEA Kallax shelf and it has 6 open boxes – so I can change those as needed.
Currently I have the following setup for her:
• one box on her shelf for puzzles
• one box for blocks
• two boxes for imaginative/dramatic play
• two for animals
She also has two bookshelves on the wall. I usually reserve those for books that she’s already enjoyed and keep new books at her level in one of the boxes or in her book basket next to her chair.
Observation is key with the toy rotation – when I notice that she’s working on a new skill or loses interest in the items on the shelf, that’s when I swap them out.
She does have a few other baskets around the room with books, stuffed animals, a train set, and musical instruments. These I do not rotate.
3. Do you have tips for purchasing new toys?
Don’t! No just kidding, but I do recommend waiting until your child has developmentally outgrown their toys before you purchase something new. Or if they are very interested in an item and you have a limited amount of that toy (ie puzzles), I would purchase then. I am shocked by the number of toys we’ve accumulated even though I limit what we buy and what we allow family members to purchase for her. For instance, she is really into playing doctor now (thank you Doc McStuffins) and I found this out because I observed her checking her baby dolls using her mini screw driver like they were at the doctors office. I shared that story with my mom and now we have a full doctors kit in the toy rotation. I’m okay with this because she is interested in engaging with these items as dramatic play and she does not have very many dramatic play items.
You will find that with rotating the toys, old toys will feel new again. And they can always go “shopping” in the toy storage containers.
4. Our craft bin is overflowing with stuff – do you have an organization method that works well to keep craft clutter to a minimum?
I feel your pain on this one!! I just bought a craft cart and it was life changing – I honestly need another one because we have so many items. I re-organized the cart with the most accessed items on top which happened to be mostly drawing/painting related. Next row was shaving cream, glue, more paint, and any other sticky items, then on the bottom I put miscellaneous items like pom poms, crinkly paper, and little wooden items to paint. I used separate smaller containers on each level of the cart. I highly recommend keeping craft items and sensory bin items separate as well. The sensory bin items are stored in plastic containers so that I can see everything.